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Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence


Engineering students using a 3D printer

Why Engineering Can’t Be Reduced to the Laws of Physics

When we reduce the engineer’s mind to a computer, the source of innovation disappears

The fundamental problem of modern science is the problem of innovation. Where does novelty come from? This problem shows up in physics, biology, artificial intelligence, and economics. Within physics, the problem is how to account for the fundamental constants of reality. They are all precisely tuned to make sentient and intelligent life—life that can learn about itself and the universe—possible through science. Within biology, the problem is accounting for the source of highly complex genetic sequences that express finely tuned biological functions. In artificial intelligence, the challenge is identifying solutions that are relevant to a given scenario. In economics the problem is identifying the right products for the market. What do all these situations have in common? In each case,…

Incognito warrior in iron helmet and red cloak.

What would Plato Say About Antifa? Or Darwin?

A careful reading of Plato and Arendt goes a long way toward explaining the current scene—but it is unsettling reading

In college, I hated Plato. We read his Republic, and, as a patriot and an idealistic young (small “d”) democrat, I was appalled at the hegemony of the Guardians and at Plato’s disdain for democracy. It seemed to me that his Guardians were the archetypal totalitarians, and that it was a fundamental human right — enshrined in the Constitution — to be ruled only by consent of the governed. In my dotage, I am more sympathetic to Plato — it’s remarkable how much smarter the old philosopher has gotten in the past 40 years! I am still uncomfortable with Guardians, at least of the secular sort. But I think John Adams got it right when he observed that “our Constitution…

Nerd with glasses hacking websites

Beware of Geeks Bearing Formulas—It’s Often Pseudoscience

Pseudoscience based on data without theory and theory without data undermine the credibility of real science, which is the key to human progress

Elsewhere I have warned of the perils of making decisions based on data without theory. For example, the patterns discovered by data-mining computer algorithms are often nothing more than meaningless coincidences. It is also perilous to go to the opposite extreme—to make decisions based on theory without data. Once upon a time, for example, economists were fond of sketching labor demand and supply curves and assuming that the economy was at their intersection. That is, labor demand is equal to supply, so that everyone who wants to work is working. The unemployed have chosen to be unemployed because they value leisure more than income. True believers were fond of this theory and little troubled by reality. Between 1929 and 1933,…


Why Reasonable People Think Near-Death Experiences Are Real

Distinguished engineers Walter Bradley and Robert J.Marks sift through the evidence

In a recent podcast, “Walter Bradley on Near-Death Experiences,” Center director Robert J. Marks discusses these experiences with Walter Bradley, after whom the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence is named. Dr. Bradley is an emeritus distinguished professor at Baylor University, formerly professor and mechanical engineering head at Texas A&M University. Here are some selections from the transcript: (You can download the entire transcript here.) Marks and Bradley started with first principles: Is it reasonable to believe that there is anything out beyond the material world? Many people assume that science exists to defend materialism. But Walter Bradley has defended the idea that there is also an immaterial world, of which we are a part, in a…

Baby girl in surprise talking on a vintage phone

Why Linguist Noam Chomsky Is a Great Scientist of Our Era

He singlehandedly rid linguistics of a stultifying (and technically mistaken) behaviorism

Noam Chomsky (right, in 2017) is, in my view, the best scientist of the past half-century. His work fascinates me, which is not a necessary criterion for being a great scientist—but it helps! I hasten to add that I do not share his politics—I’m of a conservative bent. But his theory of linguistics is brilliant and represents an anthropological, biological, and even metaphysical insight unrivaled in science since relativity and quantum mechanics. A case can be made that Chomsky’s insights are more profound than even those of modern physics, because they plumb the human soul in ways that physics cannot. To understand Chomsky’s achievement, it’s helpful to understand what linguistics was until Chomsky transformed it in the 1950s. Philosophers and…

into the deep woods, atmospheric landscape with archway and ancient trees, misty and foggy mood

Is Sci Fi Brain Decoding Becoming a Reality?

To what extent can the inner workings of thought and dream be measured through correlation?

Today I want to look at something slightly different. After stumbling upon a piece by Cassidy Ward titled “Inception’s dream-reading technology is becoming reality” over at SYFY Wire, I started thinking more about the idea of reading our dreams. He’s talking about Inception, a 2013 film from Christopher Nolan, of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight fame: The protagonist, Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), is a thief who makes his living stealing corporate secrets by invading a target’s dreams. Our dreams are meant to be safe, untouchable. They are constructed of our most private thoughts, unbidden even by our own conscious selves. To invade them is to invade the most sanctified halls of our minds. If we’re not safe in our…

China stock market graph ticker

Tech Investment Analysts Strategize How to Deal With China Today

China’s assertions of power in recent years have left many uncertain about the future of business relationships

Recently, Jay Richards interviewed Dr. Bob Kelly, Managing Partner of Ignition Partners, focusing on the panel he moderated at COSM 2019,“The Crisis of Big Tech: The US and China.” They explored the technological competition between the U.S. and China and what it means for the future. The panelists were futurist George Gilder, Wendy Liu, China market strategy analyst at multinational investment bank UBS, and Gary Rieschel, a venture capitalist in China and the United States. From the interview: Jay Richards: So what was the core controversy if you had to summarize it neutrally? Bob Kelly: I guess I’d say the core controversy really is what stance do we as Americans, or in the technology arena, take towards China? And there’s…

Binary code with China flag, data protection concept

Charges Reveal Extent of China-Sponsored Hacking in the West

Targets have included COVID-19 labs, dissidents, and religious groups
What’s new about the most recent indictment is the acknowledgment that China is working with known cybercriminals. Read More ›
Lady in Glass

Interview With a Woman (or Women) Formerly Called Susan Blackmore

A professor of psychology argues that there is no continuity between our present selves and our past selves

Much of modern philosophy of mind is a compendium of New Age gibberish. An exemplar of this mess is Susan Blackmore, a Visiting Professor (Psychology) at the University of Plymouth. She is an atheist, a “skeptic,” and a prolific author. When she was interviewed in 2016 about her philosophy of mind, remarkably, in addition to the usual atheist denial of immortality of the soul and of free will, she denied personal continuity over time. How does Blackmore account for the doggedly persistent sense we have of personal continuity? “Parallel processing” is her explanation. Blackmore points out that there are many brain pathways that are active simultaneously when we perceive, think, and act. What does that have to do with personal…

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Twitter handle with care

What’s the Main Thing We Should Learn from the Big Twitter Hack?

Yes, Twitter got control of its platform back but not before its credibility in security matters was significantly weakened

As we reported at the time, on July 15, hackers gained control of a number of Twitter “Blue Checkmark” accounts. Twitter hands out Blue Checkmarks to accounts that exert heavy influence and have verified identities. That status permits many parody accounts to operate without generating confusion over who is really tweeting, the account or the parody. In any case, on Twitter, the Blue Checkmarks have quite a bit of power. They get access to analytics on their posts so they can measure (and manipulate) their engagement with their followers. Many influencers look for “Blue Checkmark” status to see if an account is worth engaging with. Twitter even allows the “Blue Checkmarks” to filter their conversations so as to limit them…

Senior man in a wheelchair using a virtual reality device

VR Pioneer Founded Off-Campus Lab to Work On Practical Uses

RATLab, founded in 2005, gave unlikely students a chance to work on serious virtual reality projects

In a recent podcast, “Rats in the Technology lab” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his discussion with the “grandfather of virtual reality” Thomas Furness. Furness shares his tribulations and triumphs with RATLab (Rats in the Technology lab), which is an “incubator” for innovative ideas in technology. All the employees are RATs (Rocking and Thinking). Furness is, of course, King Rat. So how did it get started and what happened then? Transcript. Partial transcript: Thomas Furness (right): Well, I was enjoying my activity at the university, certainly a wonderful place to do research. But it is a bureaucracy, and I’ve found that sometimes having worked for the Air Force for the Department of Defense for 23 years,…

hand of god

Built to Save Us from Evil AI, OpenAI Now Dupes Us

When combined with several metric tons of data, its new GPT-3 sometimes it looks like it is “thinking.” No, not really

OpenAI started life in 2015 as a non-profit organization whose mission was to safeguard humanity from malevolent artificial intelligence (AI). The founders’ goal was to ensure that when superhuman AI arrived, its inborn purpose was to serve humanity rather than subjugate it. In 2019, OpenAI transitioned to a for-profit company based in San Francisco and secured a one billion dollar investment from Microsoft. Things seem to have moved on from there. There’s a good question whether superhuman AI is even possible, as we have pointed out repeatedly here at Mind Matters News. While some of the AI tasks seem impressive, oftentimes when you look under the hood, what you find is a very expensive party trick or a staged demo.…

3D rendering of a futuristic mech soldier with dog.

Do Some Passages in the Book of Revelation Seem to Talk About AI?

Revelation is notoriously obscure but a passage about a future “total control” state gives pause for thought

John Lennox, author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020), is not only an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University but also pastoral advisor to Green Templeton College at Oxford. In a podcast, “Does Revelation Talk About Artificial Intelligence?” with Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Institute, he addresses the title question, “Do some passages in the Book of Revelation seem to talk about AI?”: Selections from the transcript are provided below: (The complete downloadable transcript may be found following the Show Notes and Resources. “Can AI Replace the Need for Belief in God?” provides an account of the earlier portion of this lively discussion.) Robert J. Marks (right): Last question I want…

Artificial robot hand touch human hand

Can AI Replace the Need for Belief in God?

Oxford mathematician contends that science should increase our respect for what God has created and allowed us to do

John Lennox. author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020), is not only an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University but also pastoral advisor to Green Templeton College at Oxford. In a podcast, “Does Revelation Talk About Artificial Intelligence?”, he discusses with Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Institute, the title question: “Can AI replace the need for belief in God?” Selections from the transcript are provided below: (The complete downloadable transcript may be found following the Show Notes and Resources) Robert J. Marks (right): Let’s talk about the theological implications of AI. You have a reputation, not only as a mathematician, but a Christian apologist. And I wanted to go into some…

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3D rendering abstract round light background

Oxford Mathematician: Atheism Detracts from Science

The problem, as John Lennox sees it, is that atheism does not provide grounds for believing in rationality

Today, Evolution News and Science Today published an excerpt from Oxford mathematician John Lennox’s 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (Zondervan 2020): in which Lennox discusses some of the ways in which atheism detracts from science: Science proceeds on the basis of the assumption that the universe is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to the human mind. No science can be done without the scientist believing this, so it is important to ask for grounds for this belief. Atheism gives us none, since it posits a mindless, unguided origin of the universe’s life and consciousness. John Lennox, “Why Science and Atheism Don’t Mix” at Evolution News and Science Today: He offers physicist John Polkinghorne’s explanation of…

Woman passenger sitting in the backseat and  selects a route when her self-driving car rides on the highway.

If Self-Driving Cars Become the Norm, What Will It Feel Like?

Already, Millennials are more likely than their parents to see transportation as simply a means to an end

Recently, Jay Richards interviewed Bryan Mistele, founder and CEO of INRIX, on the non-fiction future of the self-driving car. INRIX provides data systems for analyzing traffic issues relevant to self-driving (autonomous) vehicles. He sees a bright future, amid many misconceptions: From the interview: Jay Richards: What do you think is the key misconception that people have about this technology? Bryan Mistele: I think the biggest misconception is that it’s just about autonomous vehicles. That you’ll go to a dealer, you’ll buy an autonomous vehicle. That’s not really the vision of what people in the industry are pursuing. It’s about what we call the ACES, Autonomous Connected, Electric, and Shared, all working together to deliver, basically, mobility as a service. Certainly…

Paradigm of Quantum Wave

At Nautilus: Electrons DO have a “rudimentary mind”

Panpsychists in science believe that nature is all there is but, they say, it includes consciousness as a fundamental fact of nature

A leading theory of consciousness, Integrated Information Theory (IIT) proposed by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Giulio Tononi and championed by by another leading neuroscientist, Christof Koch, has clear panpsychist affiliations. It is favored by proponents of the idea that electrons are conscious. Whoa!, you say. How can electrons be conscious? Wouldn’t they at least need a brain to be conscious? Let’s hear an explanation from proponent Tam Hunt (right) at Nautilus: You might see the rise of panpsychism as part of a Copernican trend—the idea that we’re not special. The Earth is not the center of the universe. Humans are not a treasured creation, or even the pinnacle of evolution. So why should we think that creatures with brains, like…

Man In A Tesla Car. Behind The Wheel Concept.

German Court Rules: Tesla Autopilot Is False Advertising

In America, for reasons many people can’t quite comprehend, the regulatory agencies haven’t said much about the inflated claims

Here at Mind Matters News, we have long been critics of Elon Musk’s claims about his “self-driving” Teslas. Autopilot is a cool feature but marketing it as “full self-driving” is simply a lie, and a dangerous one at that. Musk (right) has been making false claims about Autopilot for almost half a decade now. He claimed in 2016 that all Teslas that left the factory were equipped with the hardware for Level 5 full self-driving. If you’re not aware of the levels of self-driving defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Level 5 means that the car will take you wherever you want to go and you can sleep in the back. Level 4 means that, in some situations…

Computer error.

AI Will Fail, Like Everything Else, Eventually

The more powerful the AI, the more serious the consequences of failure

A day does not go by without a news article reporting some amazing breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In fact, progress in AI has been so steady that some futurists, such as Ray Kurzweil, project current trends into the future and anticipate the headlines of tomorrow. Consider some developments from the world of technology: 2004 DARPA sponsors a driverless car grand challenge. Technology developed by the participants eventually allows Google to develop a driverless automobile and modify existing transportation laws. 2005 Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robot is able to walk as fast as a human, delivering trays to customers in a restaurant setting. The same technology is now used in military robots. 2007 Computers learned to play a perfect game of checkers,…

man riding on self balancing board graffiti

Election Models: Predicting the Past is Easy — and Useless

You can seldom see where you are going by looking in a rear-view mirror
I told my students that I had a model that predicted the popular vote for the the last ten presidential elections (1980–2016) perfectly. Read More ›